One thing I really appreciated during my trip to Japan last year was the absolutely meticulous presentation of food. Every dish, every piece of crockery and every garnish had a place and each had a special meaning. In Japan the Go Zen meal is a popular meal for special occasions and has inspired Executive Chef Paul Greening at aqua kyoto to create a series of ‘Go Zen’ Bento boxes at the central London restaurant.
For regular readers, aqua kyoto needs little introduction. I’ve visited the Japanese restaurants several times and I’m a huge fan of their bottomless brunch. Spanish restaurant aqua nueva shares the fifth floor space on Argyll Street and aqua shard is the other London-based restaurant – the perfect venue for afternoon tea or a dinner with a view! Chinese restaurant, Hutong completes the London family but I’ve also visited the original aqua in Hong Kong.
This occasion would see two worlds collide as I bought my sister Jen and baby Jackson out for lunch with fellow bloggers, Emma and Mina. The restaurant was beautifully decorated with festive embellishments framing the doors to the famous terrace; putting us in high spirits for the impending meal. Christmas cocktails and champagne were ordered and we sipped a warming cup of miso soup as we waited in eager anticipation for our bento boxes.
There are two versions of the larger bento boxes, one including black cod and wagyu (£38) and the other being the perfect option for vegans (£29) – we ordered both to try.
I don’t think I even need to point out how beautiful the presentation was; perfectly arranged into twelve compartments. Japanese food can look deceptively simple but actually each dish is prepared with the utmost care, using complex and seasonal ingredients – both innovative and different whilst remaining harmonious.
The wagyu beef was exquisite and black cod is a perennial favourite for me but we loved the tempura prawns and the sashimi too. Having met Chef Paul Greening before, I was already familiar with his background as a micro-biologist and the innovative ways that he combines his passion for the food with science. The ‘aqua style’ vegetable sushi rolls are a prime example, the skins are created from mango and they are totally unique to aqua.
We were also keen to give the vegan box a try. For this the chef takes influence from shojin ryori, a type of vegan cooking practised by Buddhist monks in Japan. Another resounding success, I loved the miso aubergine and the famous aqua homemade green soba noodles, the sweet potato tempura was a hit too. The kenji rolls with daikon sauce are beautiful as well as delicious, and the box also includes pickled crow garlic; an ingredient rarely used in London restaurants.
I’m a huge fan of sushi rice and would happily have it anytime but here it’s special sakura rice that has been scented with salted cherry blossom and topped with nori and sesame – just another example of the fantastic attention to detail at aqua kyoto. Due to the importance of seasonality, the dishes will actually change through out the year too.
We all agreed that the bento boxes were a fantastic lunch option. Either would also work well for someone getting their first introduction to sushi as there’s a little bit of everything to try.
If you’re really in a hurry, you can opt for the six compartment box with a choice between yuzu miso salmon, teriyaki secreto pork or chicken, along with miso soup, sakura rice, spinach goma salad, maki vegetable sushi and rock shrimp tempura (£25). OR the deluxe box which offers a choice between Wagyu beef with sweet potato or black cod and sakura rice with furikake, miso soup, tofu tomato salad and padron peppers in a tensu broth (£36).
We couldn’t leave without ordering some of aqua’s outstanding desserts the ‘forest floor’ is stunning and is made up of yuzu oba leaf cream, almond praline, chocolate and adzuki bean paste with sour cherry sorbet. Anther fine example of the masterful blend of flavours and textures found at aqua kyoto.
The smoky flavours of the chocolate delice are just heaven and it’s perfectly paired with sesame praline kaki fruit sorbet and ginger wafers. A gorgeous sorbet cone was the finishing touch.
The Go Zen boxes are available from 12pm – 2.30pm Monday – Friday.
240 Regent Street
020 7478 0540
We were guests of Aqua Kyoto and our lunch was complimentary